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FBI Failures Allowed Larry Nassar an Extra Year to Sexually Abuse Dozens of Gymnasts: IG Report


Larry Nassar appears in court

The FBI effectively allowed some of “70 or more young gymnasts” to be sexually assaulted by former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar by failing to adequately investigate allegations against him for over a year, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in a bombshell Wednesday report.

Some of those gymnasts had already been subject to Nassar’s abuse at the time the FBI first learned of his actions. However, a substantial number of those victims first experienced abuse at Nassar’s hands during that interim period when the FBI did nothing, the report says.

“The OIG found that senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office failed to respond to the Lawrence Gerard Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and failed to notify state or local authorities of the allegations or take other steps to mitigate the ongoing threat posed by Nassar,” the intergovernmental watchdog said in conclusion.

In July 2015, the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office was made aware of three gymnasts who were sexually abused by Nassar when they were minors under the pretense of viable and necessary medical treatment.

Those allegations were shared by USA Gymnastics President and CEO Stephen D. Penny, who informed FBI agents in Indiana that each of the three gymnasts were available for interviews. Only of those gymnasts was ever interviewed by the Indianapolis Field Office during their “limited follow-up” investigation into the allegations.

“The Indianapolis office did not formally document any of its investigative activity, including its July meeting with USA Gymnastics and its September 2 telephonic interview of one of the victim gymnasts,” the OIG report notes. “The office also did not formally open an investigation or assessment of the matter. The only 2015 Indianapolis Field Office documentation located by the OIG consisted of five pages of handwritten notes taken by two of the FBI attendees at the July 2015 meeting with USA Gymnastics, three pages of notes taken by the two agents at the September 2 interview of the one athlete, a handful of email exchanges between Penny and the FBI Indianapolis Field Office, and approximately 45 emails and text messages among agents and prosecutors.”

The inquiry was shelved after the field office determined that the Hoosier State “had no connection to any of the alleged illegal activity.”

The report chastises the Indiana FBI agents responsible for washing their hands of the investigation without advising “state or local authorities about the allegations” and for failing to “take any action to mitigate the risk to gymnasts that Nassar continued to treat.”

Rather than simply botching their own efforts, FBI agents at the Indianapolis Field Office are said to have later lied about what they actually had done. The OIG report highlights this duplicity:

[T]he [Assistant U.S. Attorney for Indiana] advised the Indianapolis Field Office on September 2 [2015] to transfer the case to the FBI’s Lansing Resident Agency. However, the Indianapolis Field Office failed to do so, despite informing USA Gymnastics on September 4 [2015] that it had transferred the matter to the FBI’s Detroit Field Office (of which the FBI’s Lansing Resident Agency is a part).

Eight months later, in May 2016, officials with USA Gymnastics grew frustrated with the lack of progress and contacted the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. The same allegations from the prior meeting with Indiana-based FBI agents were repeated in California.

But the OIG report suggests certain Indianapolis Field Office agents again lied about their work:

The Los Angeles Field Office then contacted a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) in the Indianapolis Field Office (Indianapolis SSA) to learn what the Indianapolis office had done in response to the USA Gymnastics complaint. The Indianapolis SSA told the Los Angeles SSA that he had created a formal FBI complaint form (FD-71) in 2015 to transfer the Nassar allegations from the Indianapolis office to the Lansing Resident Agency; however, the Los Angeles Field Office, the Indianapolis SSA, and other FBI employees stated that they searched for the FD-71 in the FBI’s computer system but could not find it. The OIG also found no evidence that such a document had been sent to the Lansing Resident Agency in 2015.

The inspector general notes that “in contrast” to their Indiana counterparts, California FBI agents “opened a federal sexual tourism investigation against Nassar and undertook numerous investigative steps, including interviewing several of Nassar’s alleged victims.”

But just like that other office, the California agents “did not reach out to any state or local authorities, even though it was aware of allegations that Nassar may have violated state laws” and “did not take any action to mitigate the risk to gymnasts that Nassar continued to treat,” the OIG report accusatorially notes.

“[P]rudence and sound judgment dictated that the Los Angeles Field Office should have notified local authorities upon developing the serious evidence of sexual assault against Nassar that its investigative actions were uncovering,” the report adds.

The FBI’s Lansing Resident Agency only learned about the allegations against Nassar after a series of news articles about the disgraced doctor’s regime of sexual assault appeared in local media outlets during the summer of 2016.

“[N]either the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office nor the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office had previously informed the Lansing Resident Agency of the Nassar allegations,” the OIG report notes.

The laggard response to the numerous claims leveled against Nassar in multiple FBI field offices had dire real world implications, according to the OIG.

“[A]pproximately 70 or more young athletes were allegedly sexually abused by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment between July 2015, when USA Gymnastics first reported allegations about Nassar to the Indianapolis Field Office, and September 2016,” the OIG report notes. “For many of the approximately 70 or more athletes, the abuse by Nassar began before the FBI first became aware of allegations against Nassar and continued into 2016. For others, the alleged abuse began after USA Gymnastics reported the Nassar allegations to the Indianapolis Field Office in July 2015.”

“In addition to the Indianapolis Field Office’s most basic failures in its law enforcement responsibilities,” the OIG report goes on, “we found that officials in that office violated numerous FBI policies in handling the Nassar allegations.”

Singled out for particularly harsh condemnation is Indianapolis Field Office Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott and one of his deputies, who the report says repeatedly lied about their office’s efforts and then lied again to cover those failures up.

Again, the report’s conclusions, at length:

These failures by Indianapolis officials contributed to a delay of over a year in the proper FBI field office and local authorities initiating investigations that ultimately determined that Nassar had engaged in widespread sexual assaults of over 100 victims and possessed child pornography, led to convictions in both federal and state court, and resulted in jail sentences totaling over 100 years. In addition, we concluded that the Indianapolis [Special Supervisory Agent] ultimately drafted an interview summary 17 months after the interview of Gymnast 1 that contained materially false statements and omitted material information. We further concluded that the Indianapolis [Special Supervisory Agent], in an effort to minimize or excuse his errors, made materially false statements during two OIG-compelled interviews regarding the interview of Gymnast 1. We also concluded that Abbott made materially false statements to minimize errors made by the Indianapolis Field Office in connection with the handling of the Nassar allegations.

The report also notes that Abbott later attempted to spin his office’s failures into a cushy job with the U.S. Olympic Committee. He later lied about that as well when questioned under oath by the OIG.

Read the full watchdog report below:

[image via Scott Olson/Getty Images]

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